Christian Intellectual Death Squads

As a Catholic, I view the Protestant churches as essentially loyalty militias, forces that by-and-large assist the Christian correlation-of-forces but nonetheless escape any accountability from the earthly hierarchy. Thus, the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) is to the Holy See as the Badr Brigades are to the Republic of Iraq.

However, in this model there should be another category — death squads — of those who might be classified as loyalty militia except that the blowback from them is roughly as bad as the good they do. Death squads differ from other actors in that they are ideologically motivated and focus on the same concepts as the larger insurgency.

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The Seen and the Unseen

The most visible Christian ideological death squad is Islam, for obvious reasons. However, evangelical secularism or Ultracavlisnism, may form a Christian intellectual death-squad as well. Unqualified Reservations has more, courtesy of gnxp:

The “ultracalvinist hypothesis” is the proposition that the present-day belief system commonly called “progressive,” “multiculturalist,” “universalist,” “liberal,” “politically correct,” etc, is actually best considered as a sect of Christianity.

Specifically, ultracalvinism (which I have also described here and here) is the primary surviving descendant of the American mainline Protestant tradition, which has been the dominant belief system of the United States since its founding. It should be no surprise that it continues in this role, or that since the US’s victory in the last planetary war it has spread worldwide.

In fact, they are so unusual that most people don’t see ultracalvinism as Christian at all. For example, on the theological side, ultracalvinism is best known as Unitarian Universalism. (It’s an interesting exercise to try to find any conflicts between UUism and “political correctness.”) Ultracalvinists are perfectly free to be atheists, or believe in any God or gods – as long as they don’t adhere to any revealed tradition, which would make them “fundamentalists.” In general, ultracalvinists oppose revelation and consider their beliefs to be pure products of reason. And perhaps they are right in this – but I feel the claim should at least be investigated.

And when we look at the real-world beliefs of ultracalvinists, we see that ultracalvinism is anything but content-free. By my count, the ultracalvinist creed has four main points:

First, ultracalvinists believe in the universal brotherhood of man. As an Ideal (an undefined universal) this might be called Equality. (“All men and women are born equal.”) If we wanted to attach an “ism” to this, we could call it fraternalism.

Second, ultracalvinists believe in the futility of violence. The corresponding ideal is of course Peace. (“Violence only causes more violence.”) This is well-known as pacifism.

Third, ultracalvinists believe in the fair distribution of goods. The ideal is Social Justice, which is a fine name as long as we remember that it has nothing to do with justice in the dictionary sense of the word, that is, the accurate application of the law. (“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) To avoid hot-button words, we will ride on a name and call this belief Rawlsianism.

Fourth, ultracalvinists believe in the managed society. The ideal is Community, and a community by definition is led by benevolent experts, or public servants. (“Public servants should be professional and socially responsible.”) After their counterparts east of the Himalaya, we can call this belief mandarism.

In fact, the four points are very common and easily recognizable tenets of Protestant Christianity, specifically in its Calvinist or Puritan strain. You can find them all over the place in the New Testament, and any subject of Oliver Cromwell’s saintly republic would have recognized them instantly. Rawlsianism is definitely the last of the four to develop, but even it is very common in the 17th century, when its adherents were known as Diggers – a name that, not surprisingly, was later reused. Ultracalvinism fits quite neatly in the English Dissenter and low church tradition. (Note the blatant POV of the latter page, with loaded words like “reform,” a good indication that Wikipedians incline to ultracalvinism.)

Ultracalvinism’s camouflage mechanism is easy to understand. If you are an ultracalvinist, you must dispute the claim that the four points are actually Christian, because you believe in them, and you believe they are justified by reason rather than faith. Therefore they are universal and no one can doubt them, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew.

What are the adaptive advantages of crypto-Christianity? Why did those Unitarians, or even “scientific socialists,” who downplayed their Christian roots, outcompete their peers?

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious, really. The combination of electoral democracy and “separation of church and state” is an almost perfect recipe for crypto-Christianity.

As I’ve said before, separation of church and state is a narrow-spectrum antibiotic. What you really need is separation of information and security. If you have a rule that says the state cannot be taken over by a church, a constant danger in any democracy for obvious reasons, the obvious mutation to circumvent this defense is for the church to find some plausible way of denying that it’s a church. Dropping theology is a no-brainer. Game over, you lose, and it serves you right for vaccinating against a nonfunctional surface protein.

Several intellegent and well spoken atheists, including Adam of The Metropolis Times, frequent this blog. I would love to hear their opinion

13 thoughts on “Christian Intellectual Death Squads”

  1. “Why did those Unitarians, or even “scientific socialists,” who downplayed their Christian roots, outcompete their peers?”

    Which peers is the UU outcompeting, and in what ways?

    As to whether this modern progressive Rawlsian movement – whose 4 characteristics are summed up pretty well – should be considered “ultracalvinist” or “crypto-Christian” depends on how you define everything. Historically, its an outgrowth of Christian Humanism; the UU isn't coy about this. (Judeo-Christian Tradition)

    So, if secular progressivism grows out of Calvinism and then sheds beliefs generally considered necessary to be Calvinist (such as theism, for one) do they still count as Calvinist or 'Ultracalvinist?”

    Opposition to Church-State mixture is important because there are simply no duties of a State that require it to get involved with Churches. Non-theologic groups such as Temperance Unions or Social Justice leagues post just as much of a threat to a free society, regardless of their historical association with religion; if we could get an Amendment forbidding Congress to pass laws respecting an establishment serving alcohol it'd serve the same purpose – the government has no business oppressing or promoting the consumption or non-consumption of alcoholic beverages in general or in specific.

    So yes, “ultracalvinist” or “secular progressive” groups can function in the same ways and potentially pose the same threats and in very many of the same ways as religious organizations. Is Scientology really a religion? Is Objectivism?

    Although there may be unique threats posed by involvement by faith-based involvement in government – see the objective rule of law and civilization collapse at the end of Miracle on 34th Street for every secularist's worst nightmare.

  2. I printed out at work yesterday all of the “The Ultracalvinst Hypothesis” stuff (post, links to other stuff, comments) – 70 pages – and took it home to read.

    It just blew me away. I don't even know what to say. I am giddy with excitement. I have to read through it all again. Wow. Very cool. My brain is firing in all directions.

    On another note, I have no idea how you manage to get married, sneak in yet another a graduate degree, read all this stuff, and blog up a storm. BTW, What graduate degree are you going to start/earn in July-August? Perhaps it is that clean-cut South Dakota living (or whatever country you are in currently).

  3. Everyone is channeling John Robb's writing style these days…

    Seemingly you could substitute “conventional wisdom” for “ultracalvinist hypothesis” and come to the same conclusions?

  4. A lot of these ideas have intellectual roots in New England or in areas first heavily colonized by New England (upper midwest, pac northwest, northern California). Kevin Phillips discusses such in his flawed, but interesting “Cousins Wars.”

    Not surprisingly, New England is home to not only Puritanism, but the two other major religions founded in America, Christian Science and Mormanism.

    Social ways last a long time and accross later seemingly different classes, ethnicities and religions. They must be cosidered as important as genetics.

  5. Adam,

    I believe Unqualified Reservations is arguing that contemporary atheism is a mutation of Mainline Protestantism, and by shedding a nunfunctional ornament (belief in “revelation”) is outcompeting all other Mainline Protestant sects.

    I don't have numbers in front of me, but as I recall contemporary atheism is growing while the rest of Mainline Protestantism (Episcopalianism, Presbytarianism, etc) are all shrinking.

    “Opposition to Church-State mixture is important because there are simply no duties of a State that require it to get involved with Churches.”

    Perhaps, though it depends how you define Churches. Legally we seem to speak of corporate entities, and this is what the “ultracalvinists have shed.” However, philosophically we speak of intellectual centers all-encompassing normative prescriptions, and this the ultracalvinists retain. Thus “Unqualified Reservation”'s point that contemporary atheism is merely Mainline Protestantism less a nonfunctional surface protein (a corporate existence, a board of directors, etc).

    Purpleslog,

    The post was very cool. Glad it was so mind-blowing. 🙂

    We South Dakotans are a simple, salt of the earth, people. And this one in particular will be formally beginning a doctoral program in educational psychology this August. By that time I will already have masters in computer science and ed psych. [1]

    Steve,

    I don't know about conventional wisdom, but the eastern estabslihment [2] was at least a manifestation of Mainline Protestantism…

    ElamBend,

    Don't forget the Cthulhu Mythos!

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/06/23/comp-d.html
    [2] http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2006/03/foreign-policy-and-american-elite-part_31.html
    [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovecraft_Mythos#_note-2

  6. Dan,

    As long as “Ultracalvinism” as an intellectual center is understood to be different than simple “atheism,” as in non-belief, then I agree with the theory. “Secular progressivism” clearly grew out of mainline Protestantism and Deism. [1] Groups like the UU and Secular Humanism share both ethical and political allies with liberal Protestants.

    So yes, SPs can be seen as “Ultracalvinists” in exactly the way Unqualified Reservations describes.

    I question UU outcompeting because as far as I can remember, their growth has stagnated – they're not syphoning off members from Protestant churches. But the number of unchurched is growing.

  7. I can agree with Adam, however, I think a lot of self-professed Atheists in America today are not simple atheist, but come from the Ultracalvinist tradition, making them Practicing and prothetizing atheists, different from the silent and accepting atheist.

  8. Naturally, militant or activist atheists are going to be the ones on television or in other media professing atheism. There'd be little point in having an 'silent and accepting' atheist on TV if your goal is ratings, and they're not the type to write books about it either. As a result, the public face of atheism is, unfortunately, dominated by UltraCalvinists and 'New Atheists.'

    One of the first responses a fellow student of mine is having while trying to recruit members for the upcoming Godless Razorbacks RSO (or whatever it ends up being named) is that no one wants to be part of a group where we just sit around and piss off Christians the whole time.

    As far as the relationship between Ultracalvinism and 'New Atheism' is concerned, I think its part of the same strain – atheism is seen as socially progressive – but I'll write a blog about that on Sunday.

    The link I meant to put on the last comment is my several-part review of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Its written by an Ultracalvinist who makes no distinction between “liberalism,” “atheism” and “freethought.”

    http://themetropolistimes.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/09/07/freethinkers-intro-ch-1-2.html

  9. Purpleslog,

    Wow. Econlog clearly did its research… and every except is astounding

    ” I hope you can agree that the Harvard faculty in 2007 by and large believes in human equality, social justice, world peace and community leadership, that the faculty of the same institution held much the same beliefs in 1957, 1907, 1857 and 1807, and that in any of these years they would have described these views as the absolute cynosure of Christianity. Perhaps I am just naturally suspicious, but it strains my credulity slightly to believe that sometime in 1969, the very same beliefs were rederived from pure reason and universal ethics, whose concurrence with the New Testament is remarkable to say the least.” [1]

    and “For example, if ultracalvinists are Christians, “political correctness” is religious orthodoxy. Hm, where have we seen this before? Perhaps in Massachusetts? I mean, is it any surprise that Ivy League schools are acting, in effect, as ultracalvinist seminaries? Isn't that exactly what they were founded as?” [2]

    and “By my count, Anglophone North America ex Canada is on its fifth legal regime. The First Republic was the Congressional regime, which illegally abolished the British colonial governments. The Second Republic was the Constitutional regime, which illegally abolished the Articles of Confederation. The Third Republic was the Unionist regime, which illegally abolished the principle of federalism. The Fourth Republic is the New Deal regime, which illegally abolished the principle of limited government.” [3]

    Every post presents something to think about. Very good.

    Adam,

    I'm looking forward to Sunday's post! And thanks for the link to last year's series on freethinkers!

    [1] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/06/rawlsian-god-cryptocalvinism-in-action.html
    [2] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/06/why-conservatives-never-quite-catch.html
    [3] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/05/iron-polygon-power-in-united-states.html

  10. Speaking of political correctness, fundamen…err…I mean evangelical Christians need to realize that political correctness is a two way street. The reason I say this is because the term has become so plastic to the right that they use it to condemn just about anything that they don't believe.

    For instance, I got the kick out of the title of a global warming skepticism book entitled “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and environmentalism).” Now, one would think that they “PC” way to go about the question of global warming would be to talk a relative stance in an attempt to preserve everyone emotional dignity, but the last time I checked it is those who believe in global warming that say the science is in and that it is no more debatable than the earth being round, while skeptics say that there needs to be two sides to the issue regardless.

    My question is: Is the global warming believer or the skeptic that politically correct one. After all, belief in global warming is generically characterized as a left of center belief, so it must be an act of political correctness, right?

  11. As the result of human behavior, the climate is changing, and so is the sand under foot.

    There are two sides to it: solid science on one side and blind faith on the right.

  12. Jeffrey

    “Political correctness” properly refers to a form of Leftist identity politics. The hijacking of the term by people who use it as “stuff I disagree with” probably owes a lot to Bill Maer. The book you saw is an example of the degradation of language.

    sonofsamphm1c,

    Could you rephrase both paragraphs?

  13. “Political correctness” properly refers to a form of Leftist identity politics.”

    Could you further elaborate?

  14. Samson,
    Do you mean to say we change the beach by walking upon it, but it is still the beach, essentially unchanged?

    Your second para, I don't get.

  15. The scientists at NASA, NOAA, and conservative schools like Texas A&M, etc. are not lefties, and they are not operating on faith.

    George Will, as an example, is operating on faith with respect to his arguments about climate change.

  16. sonofsamphm1c ,

    What are the alpha and beta levels for these research findings? (I presume you are speaking of findings, and not a priori programmatic research hypotheses.)

    Jeffrey,

    Most “P.C.” speech revolves around culturally-constructed group identity, as opposed to anything innate. For instance, “black” refers to objective skin coloration, whereas “African-American” refers to a perceived group-origin in Africa and perceived group-residence in America. Likewise, “sex” is a biological fact whereas “gender” is a social convention.

  17. I don't remember mentioning any findings.

    Because climate change is perceived to be a leftist campaign, George Will has faith the scientists are wrong.

    The scientists at NASA, NOAA, etc. don't do science by left and right, at least, not the ones who know what they are doing. They science, and research takes them where it goes.

    If you want to thread a needle on Mars, are you going to call George Will or NASA? Their climate scientists are also the world's best.

  18. sonofsamphm1c,

    “I don't remember mentioning any findings.”

    I didn't think you had any to back up your claim, “There are two sides to it: solid science on one side and blind faith on the right.” But I had hope.

    “Because climate change is perceived to be a leftist campaign, George Will has faith the scientists are wrong.”

    Of course I cannot speak for Will, but my assumption is that he is hearing claims similar to yours, that there is only 'science' and 'faith' as possible sides, but that 'science' can't be bothered to provide research findings, leading him to suspect there are merely two political sides

    “The scientists at NASA, NOAA, etc. don't do science by left and right, at least, not the ones who know what they are doing. They science, and research takes them where it goes.”

    Well, yes and know. Scientists tend to stay in their paradigm or research program, which is usually nonpolitical the more of a “hard science” they are in. It's my impression — as much of the global warming news-stories come from computer models, that this sort of climatology is quite soft. (I built computer models before, one was my thesis, and I am very acquainted with how you get the results you want from them.)

    That said — if there are any actual findings you would like to share, feel free to.

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